Name that BluTune: Roberts launch Bluetooth radio range

roberts-blutone-range

Hundreds of stations and not a thing worth listening to: Even the shift from FM to DAB couldn’t help us avoid the nasal, cheesy, over-enthusiastic, often-egotistical tones of presenters playing the same 10 soulless songs every hour.

Sound familiar? Well let’s say goodbye to the fake cheery chat and start taking over the airwaves ourselves!

Don’t worry, Latest Gadgets isn’t suggesting you climb up a high-rise tower block with a ropey aerial and set up a pirate channel. Oh no, we’ve got something much safer and more convenient than that. Besides, we haven’t got a decent collection of jungle records and we’re scared of heights.

Roberts are joining the likes of Sony, Sandstorm and Samsung with BluTune, a range of cool-looking Bluetooth enabled radio devices. No high-rise towers, no law-breaking, no fuss – as long as the radio is within a 10metre range of your laptop, or smart device you can be the DJ and play whatever you like, whenever you like completely wirelessly.

Complete with full FM/DAB/DAB+ functionality, all you need to do is activate the Bluetooth mode, it will recognise your player and will stream the music seamlessly. And in good quality, too.

Other functions in the range include a USB port for smart device charging, auxiliary input for iPod or MP3 playback, station pre-sets, two alarm settings, FM RDS display, mains AC adapter and a headphone socket (in case your family consider your selections to be worse than the professionals!)

Price-wise the range goes from £80 to £199.99, let’s take a quick look at each one:

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Blutune 40: The entry-level, baby model, it’s compact, it’s bijou, it offers all of the functions listed above and it’ll look nice on any work surface or bedside table.

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Blutune 50: The slightly cooler bigger brother of the Blutune 40. Why is it cooler? Because it has a 2.1 speaker system so it sounds better, that’s why.  This one will cost you £99.

revival-blutone

Revival Blutune: In-keeping with the ‘family’ metaphor, the Revival is the stylish yummy mummy of the Blutune clan. She might not sport the 2.1 speaker system but her retro 1950s finish, 120 hours of battery life, classic rotary tuning controls and larger LCD display more than make up for it. Complete with a carry handle, you can pick her up for £199.99.

roberts-blutone

Blutune: The daddy, if you will. There’s no retro styling here. Just a timeless beatbox boasting the range’s largest 2.1 speaker system, it offers all of functions we’ve already listed plus a whole load more volume. And a remote control. In case it’s too loud you can’t actually get close enough to switch it off manually. Like the Revival, this flagship model will cost £199.99.

Aves Air DAB Radio Review

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The Aves Air is that rarest of breeds, a pocket-sized DAB radio. The technology may offer crystal clear reception and instant tuning, but DAB has always lent itself more readily to chunky desktop radios rather than units you slip into your coat pocket on the way home from work. The Air is light and smaller than the average mobile phone (102mm x 58mm x 16mm to be precise), and will set you back a penny under £50 if you’re looking to make the switch from your old analogue model. It’s both pocket and wallet-friendly then, and quickly scanned through all the available DAB channels once we’d got it up and running. After a few days’ worth of use, we were impressed with the portability and functionality of the unit.

You won’t find Jonny Ive levels of polish and finish on the Aves Air, but it’s decently designed and put together, especially when you take the price into consideration. Sound is clear and sharp on both DAB and FM, though serious audiophiles will want to invest in a better set of headphones to replace the rather basic pair you get with the radio (which don’t feature in-line remote controls). We had no problems operating the unit and worked out most of its features without recourse to the instruction leaflet — you can configure up to 10 preset channels for both DAB and FM, and there’s a useful sleep function included too, which will automatically switch off the Aves Air after 10-120 minutes of inactivity. Volume rockers are positioned on the right of the unit for making quick adjustments.

Power comes from two supplied AAA batteries which should see you right for 8 hours’ worth of listening (which seemed about right from our experiments) The 128 x 64 pixel LCD screen is functional without being spectacular, managing to squeeze in the time and date alongside details of the station you’re listening to, but it’s the unit’s diminutive size that’s the real selling point here. Miniature DAB radios are often either poorly constructed or a touch on the expensive side, but the Aves Air is neither. While it doesn’t offer a bundle of bells and whistles, and is probably too low-end for serious music lovers, it’s a great choice if you simply want DAB radio access on the go without spending too much.

The Future of Digital Radio: DAB Not Quite Dibs

Roberts-Splash

I once owned what is now commonly termed a vintage radio. Back then of course it wasn’t vintage, just state of the art and I was very proud of it. It was a Roberts portable, and then just like now, it stood for robust quality; a rich lineage of portable radios since Harry Roberts and Leslie Bidmead started the company in Britain back in 1932.

Roberts has never shunned the old school look, and as retro is trending well these days, that gambit seems to have paid off; but as the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover, particularly when it comes to technology. Fortunately for Roberts, it has always stayed one step ahead of the game using reliable and quality electronics and the advent of Digital Audio broadcasting or DAB as it is more commonly known, giving Roberts an opportunity to get a real stranglehold on the DAB market.

The future for DAB looked very rosy initially and we were promised an array of goodies from eclipsing FM with higher quality, to a far greater choice of stations and music.

Absolute-SportsDAB

The reality hasn’t fulfilled the promise yet. Yes, there are benefits; there is a bigger choice of music, stations get auto tuned, I can read information about the station, the artist and the song, and there is no annoying interference or hiss when the signal is weak. However, the sound quality can actually be worse than FM in some areas (all about bad error correction) and there is generally a delay in delivering the music, particularly annoying if you are watching a live TV concert and listening to it in DAB. There are also rumours about broadcasters, including the BBC, squeezing bandwidth to cram as many stations as they can another factor in reducing sound quality.

The fact of the matter is, until there is a wholesale overhaul of digital broadcasting, it pays to have a decent DAB receiver to ensure you get the maximum benefit from a system still in its relative infancy.

Roberts continues to produce consistent products and has just released a DAB/ FM RDS digital all weather, water resistant radio called Splash!. This all white model features a swivel handle and a wall mounting plate, 8 station presets, auto scan tuning, a handy LED torch, alarm and a carrying strap for £100.

Sports DAB3 is another new release for sports enthusiasts on the go who want to keep up to date with all the latest scores. This pocket sized DAB has a built in speaker as well as earphone mode, 20 presets and RDS station name display. Yours for £90.

www.robertsradio.co.uk

Pioneer’s new Airplay-enabled Network Audio Players

Earlier this week, Pioneer announced two lovely new Network Audio Players. The N-30 and N-50 both support Apple’s AirPlay function and offer the ability to play music files from a variety of sources and formats, including high resolution 192 kHz/24-bit audio files. Awesome.

Pioneer-N50

Why should you be excited, then? Well gadgeteers, both players feature high quality playback of music files, including FLAC and WAV, up to 192 kHz/24 bit. Sweet. But oh, that’s not all.

We’ll get you started with the N-50 which has dual transformers and USB/Optical/Coaxial digital inputs to work alongside the RCA and Optical/Coaxial outputs. Additionally, (and quite fantastically) it can support internet radio and iPod files, so, whatever format it’s in, and no matter how far it’s embedded within the deepest, dankest and darkest corners of your computer’s musical collection, then it’s likely to play for you. It is very good like that. Is there a catch at all? Unfortunately, yes; you do need an additional adapter for wi-fi compatibility… wait… wait… it’ll be okay. Read on and feel comforted by the horse’s mouth… no wait, that’s really not right. Ah yes, feel reassured by some info straight from the source… better.

Technology and Product Information Manager at Pioneer Europe, Philippe Coppens says: “Audiophiles now want to enjoy audio playback from their whole music library as well as online media, in the best possible sound quality. Keeping that in mind, Pioneer’s network audio players were developed to offer a new listening experience, giving access to music files wherever they are stored —PC, NAS, HDD, iPod/iPhone/iPad, or USB— as well as internet radio programmes from around the world.

“For the N-50, we have further integrated asynchronous USB DAC functionality and DSP processing, along with the parts and construction to make sure the requirements of even the most demanding audiophile are met.”

What about the N-30 then? Well, err, dear audiophiles, it’s not quite as good as the slick N-50, but it still does a top-notch job. Yeah, it lacks the dual transformers and digital inputs (excluding AirPlay and DLNA, of course), and the iPod compatibility, but otherwise carries out the same functions as its “big brother” model.

These luscious new Pioneers are available in black now, priced at £349.99 for the N-30 and £499.99 for the N-50.

CES Unveiled – Pure Sensia 200D music system

At last night’s CES Unveiled press event, we were given a demonstration of the forthcoming Sensia 200D music system from the guys over at Pure. The 200D is the follow-up to the original Sensia and the primary enhancements are the ability to record audio (such as DAB radio) to an external USB hard drive / memory stick as well as the ability to ‘tag’ and identify a song.

The tagging feature utilises Shazam to quickly identify the song you’re listening to and then stores the result in the user’s area of the Pure Lounge (thelounge.com) site. The track can then either be purchased and downloaded, through their tie-up with 7Digital, or simply used to find similar songs or other tracks by the same artist.

In addition to tagging and recording (which works via an instant record button or manually setting a start date/time and duration), the Sensia 200D also provides access to ‘Pure Music’. This is a cloud-based on-demand music service which costs £4.99 per month and keeps any purchases synchronised between your other Pure music systems, your PC/Mac as well as via an Andriod or iOS app.

Sensia users can also use the colour touchscreen to view weather reports or station slideshows (dependant on broadcaster), engage with Twitter and Facebook, keep up to date with selected RSS feeds or view photos stored locally or via Picasa. The unit provides 30W RMS of digital sound and additional features include an input for an iPod/MP3 player; two fully featured alarms; countdown timer; sleep timer and a headphone socket.

The 200D continues to build on its predecessor’s user friendly approach to digital radio and streaming music – a world which can be quite bewildering for newcomers. We felt one area for future improvement would be to provide an EPG (electronic programme guide) for the DAB side of the product – which would make better use of the unit’s new recording ability.

The Sensia 200D Connect will be available in the UK during the first quarter of 2012 with a recommend retail price of £249.99.

Great Eco-Gadgets For Christmas

Do you love a white Christmas? Well, if global warming gets its way, say goodbye to those snowy Xmas days. That’s why we’ve put together this list of eco-gadgets to fill both your Christmas stocking and your heart with self-righteous eco warmness.

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Powermonkey-eXtreme Portable Charger

The powermonkey-eXtreme certainly lives up to its name. It’s got a massive 9000mAhcapacity Lithium Polymer battery – 6x the size of the one you’ll find inside the iPhone. Speaking of, the unit is capable of recharging most 5V devices – which includes the iPhone and Garmin Edge 800. It can power standard mobiles 12x over.

It’s also got two ports – standard USB for phones and a DC outputs (at 2.1Amps max) to support the Apple iPad and other tablet computers. It’s also IPP67 rated, so it’s waterproof for 30 minutes up to 1 metre – and shock resistant.

And the eco bit? It has a huge solar panel built-in, which you can connect via Velcro to a rucksack to keep you charged on the go. Perfect.

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Water Powered Atomic Clock

Buy here

Do you remember opening a present only to be disappointed by a need for batteries? Well, fear not, because here is a clock powered by water. That’s right, just H2O. Pour in some water and the hydrogen cell will react, turning the water into power.

The clock then synchronises via radio to the atomic time centre, so everything stays on-time as well as being power-free. There’s an alarm, thermometer and calendar as well, but who needs those bits?

Eco-Chameleon

Chameleon 6 in 1 Solar kit

Buy here

The Chameleon is a six in one solar toy set that’s perfect for indoctrinating the youth with green ideals.

You can create six different solar powered models that come to life when exposed to sunlight – a boat, car, windmill, plane, dog and a standing fan (see? It’s practical, too.).

Water-Radio

Water Pressure Powered FM Scan Shower Radio

Buy here

Instead of relying on high-tech hydrogen conversion or the power of the sun, the water-pressure FN shower radio is powered by thrusting, surging water. From the tap.

Simply hook it up to the faucet of your shower and the water will pump through, turning a turbine and generating enough power to listen to your favourite tunes.
It’s also got a built-in rechargeable battery so it keeps playing even after the shower stops – perfect for drying yourself off while dancing. It also means that the last station and volume level are automatically stored after use ready for your next shower.

Santa-Eco-Torch

Santa Eco Torch

£3.99

Buy here

Squeeze the handle to generate light. What? It may not be the latest gadget, but it’s Christmas-sy.

Orange Liveradio team up with Logitech to ‘evolve the Squeezebox experience’

In the same way only the most respected, celebrated and legendary car manufacturers, such as Mercedes Benz and Alfa Romeo, have forums dedicated for fellow enthusiasts to share their experiences and tips, technology companies must know they’ve ‘established’ themselves when there are forums in circulation devoted to sharing knowledge about their products. Such is the case with Logitech and its award-winning Squeezebox Wi-Fi network music player and popular range of applications. Broadening the catalogue of radio stations and podcasts available on Squeezebox, Logitech has announced a new alliance with the Orange Liveradio app.

Logitech-Squeezebox

From the Beeb’s Radio 4 to France’s RTL, the Orange Liveradio app adds a further 11,000 radio stations from across the globe to a Squeezebox user’s catalogue of radio stations. For those who are unaware of the assets of the Logitech Squeezebox, this compact network music player enables users to enjoy digital music on their computer and the internet. Without the need of wires and supporting almost every format, including AIFF, AAC, WAV, Apple Lossless, FLAC, WMA and MP3, digital music collections and radio stations can be enjoyed anywhere in the home.  Squeezebox experiences can be controlled by a user’s smartphone or tablet with the Logitech Squeezebox Controller app.

In adding the Orange Liveradio catalogue to its range of apps, Logitech has created more opportunities for the discerning digital music fan. As well as creating an additional 11,000 radio stations to its index, users can access more podcasts from providers all over the world.

We’ve all had moments when we’ve heard a track we instantly love but don’t know the artist or group who are singing it. This annoying feat of listening to music can be rectified with the Orange Liveradio app, which gives users access to all the associated information supplied by the radio stations, such as song titles and artist’s names.

If Squeezebox embraces your music listening desires you may be excited by the Squeezebox/Orange Liveradio collaboration and want to check out further information on this “exciting step in the evolution of Squeezebox”, visit www.mysqueezebox.com. Or you could join other Squeezebox geeks and sign up to the Logitech Sqeezebox forum at www.forums.slimdevices.com

Eton Raptor: Taking the ‘ruggedness’ out of camping!

The arrival of summer – even if it has turned slightly sour, at least up north anyway – beckons us into the open air. If you are heading to a music festival , or camping with the kids, or trekking in the Alps, or whatever your outdoor activity is this summer, being able to charge your phone is a present-day necessity of many modern outdoor enthusiasts. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no battery and therefore no contact with the outside world needn’t be a worry, thanks to the Eton Raptor – the rugged, solar-powered radio that also charges your phone, thus providing ‘outdoor freedom’.

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Not only can the Eton Raptor be a much needed companion providing you with the usual entertainment, news and music a radio can, as well as charging your phone, without the use of batteries, but it also doubles up as a LED torch, altimeter, barometer, compass, alarm clock and even bottle opener. For anyone who has ever spent a night camping on the face of a mountain or has even been to a music festival, you will realise that the items mentioned above are often as essential items as a tent, particularly the bottle opener!

Not only does this multi-faceted device provide virtually everything you will need in the great outdoors and is an emergency did occur – i.e you can’t find your bottle opener – but it is rugged, waterproof, rubberised and has a IPX4 splash proof rating, which can withstand a direct, constant shower for up to five minutes – An imperative feature of any device meant for the outdoors in a British summer.

Concealed behind a protective rubber flap, owners of the Eton raptor will find a USB output that will enable them to charge gadgets, such as mobiles and a headphone socket and audio output also cunningly hidden, which means users can play music from an iPod or mobile without obtruding the ears of other campers!

In short, for a mere £99.99 you can turn your outdoor camping ventures into a ‘home from home’ experience with the help of the Eton Raptor.